Auto-Tune Evo 6
|Developer(s)||Antares Audio Technologies|
|Initial release||1997 |
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X|
Auto-Tune is a proprietary audio processor created by Antares Audio Technologies. Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes, and has allowed singers to perform perfectly tuned vocal tracks without the need of singing in tune. While its main purpose is to slightly bend sung pitches to the nearest true semitone (to the exact pitch of the nearest tone in traditional equal temperament), Auto-Tune can be used as an effect to distort the human voice when pitch is raised or lowered significantly.
Auto-Tune is available as a plug-in for professional audio multi-tracking suites used in a studio setting, and as a stand-alone, rack-mounted unit for live performance processing. Auto-Tune has become standard equipment in professional recording studios.
Auto-Tune was initially created by Andy Hildebrand, an engineer working for Exxon. Hildebrand developed methods for interpreting seismic data, and subsequently realized that the technology could be used to detect, analyze, and modify pitch.
According to the Boston Herald, "Country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have both confessed to using Auto-Tune in performance, claiming it is a safety net that guarantees a good performance. Sara Evans, John Michael Montgomery and Gary LeVox of the group Rascal Flatts also rely on Auto-Tune to compensate for pitch problems. However, other country music singers, such as Loretta Lynn, Allison Moorer, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless, have refused to use Auto-Tune.
Auto-Tune was also used to produce the prominent altered vocal effect on Cher's "Believe," recorded in 1998. When first interviewed about this, the sound engineers claimed that they had used a vocoder, in what Sound on Sound perceived as an attempt to preserve a trade secret. After the massive success of "Believe," many artists imitated the technique. It was evident in songs of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some notable examples are Gigi D'Agostino's "La Passion" and Janet Jackson's US #1 hit "All For You," among many others. After years of relative dormancy, the effect was revived in the mid-2000s by R&B singer T-Pain, who elaborated on the effect in contemporary popular music by making active use of it in his songs, a style that has since gone on to be imitated by numerous other R&B and pop artists.
Opponents of the plug-in argue Auto-Tune has a negative effect on society's perception and consumption of music. In 2009, Time magazine quoted an unnamed Grammy-winning recording engineer as saying, "Let's just say I've had Auto-Tune save vocals on everything from Britney Spears to Bollywood soundtrack albums. And every singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box." The same article expressed "hope that pop's fetish for uniform perfect pitch will fade," speculating that pop-music songs have become harder to differentiate from one another, as "track after track has perfect pitch." At the 51st Grammy Awards, the band Death Cab for Cutie made an appearance wearing blue ribbons to protest the use of Auto-Tune in the music industry. The lead single of Jay-Z's 2009 album The Blueprint 3 is titled "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)". Jay-Z elaborated that he wrote the song under the personal belief that far too many people had jumped on the Auto-Tune bandwagon and that the trend had become a gimmick.
The Anti-Auto-Tune Movement is a campaign to indicate the protest of Auto-Tune by including a symbol on the artist's album. The CD "Miss Fortune" by singer-songwriter Allison Moorer has a sticker stating that "Absolutely no vocal tuning or pitch correction was used in the making of this record".  A 2003 article states that "According to industry insiders, many successful mainstream artists in most genres of music – perhaps a majority of artists – are using pitch correction". Timothy Powell, a producer/engineer interviewed for the article stated that he is "even starting to see vocal tuning devices show up in concert settings"; he states that "That's more of an ethical dilemma – people pay a premium dollar to see artists and artists want people to see them at their best."  In a 2004 article, Neil McCormick called Auto-Tune a "particularly sinister invention that has been putting extra shine on pop vocals since the 1990s" by taking "a poorly sung note and transpos[ing] it, placing it dead center of where it was meant to be".